Chapter 23: The Decisive Path, Part II

Now this… this is more like it.

Hours after his qualification matches, Blue looks out over the Leader Stadium, a vast underground room. He stands just inside the challenger’s entrance, at the midpoint of one of the rectangular room’s incredibly long walls. Watching the Challenge matches on TV, Blue often thought the Pewter gym was too boring. Misty’s water sports, Surge’s electric fields, Erika’s living arena, which he saw in person once as a spectator… they all make it clear that something fantastic is happening, something that will help forge legends and shape fates. Sure, Brock’s arena is bigger than theirs, but all that space has nothing to catch the eye. From the other side of a screen, the battles might as well be happening in some big warehouse.

But standing in it himself, Blue has a new appreciation for the impact of size. “Big” doesn’t cover it. The room is goddamn enormous.

He can practically feel the vastness of the arena in the quality of the air. It seems to be as large as the entire building above it, and effectively triples the building’s carrying capacity in the event of an emergency. The stands easily look fifty rows deep and are elevated most of the way up the walls. From this distance the people on them are small as his fingernail, and he realizes that from their vantage point he probably looks even smaller in contrast to all the space before him.

He was wrong about Pewter Gym. More than any spectacle could, its stark and massive arena makes it clear: this is something important. This is a place destiny is decided.

Time to kick off his.

“Challenger, Blue Oak. First badge.”

The speakers are loud enough to easily cut through the chatter of the spectators. Before the echo begins to fade, Blue is already striding out toward the challenger’s platform as the distant applause ripple through the room. Back straight, arms casually at his sides. The stands only seem about a quarter full from Blue’s vantage point. Not a bad draw on such relatively short notice: the fact that he’s an Oak probably did a lot to help attract people. He can feel his hands trembling with excitement. Thankfully the wide screens stationed along the upper walls don’t show it. He’ll be steady once the match starts and his attention focuses on the battle. He hopes.

The dozen steps up to his platform feel steeper than they are, and once he’s above its walls and on the platform, he moves to the railing. The size of the arena from this angle makes him suck in a breath. The field stretches out below and to either side of him, at least ten times the size of the one he fought in before, like a segment of the mountain was cut out and placed under the gym. Just imagining Aeosus fighting here, weaving between the boulders and diving beneath the ground to come up beneath his pokemon, makes him break out in a cold sweat.

Thankfully, he won’t have to worry about facing that monster. He pities any trainer that saves Pewter for their last badge. Whatever Brock ends up choosing for Blue can’t be worse than the supposed demigod of Mt. Moon.

Blue refrains from wiping the back of his neck, acutely aware of the cameras trained on him. He keeps his face carefully placid, not blank and empty, but alert and at ease. Crafting his image is important, and that image has to be of someone in control of themselves.

Grinning like a madman might give a bad impression.

“Leader Brock, of Pewter City, 138th Indigo League Champion, Trainer of Aeosus, The Mountain’s Might!”

This time the applause are much louder. Brock is hard to make out in the distance, but the screens show him walking toward his platform in his usual orange and dark-khaki shirt and cargo pants. Like his gym, Brock often clothes himself in the functional rather than flashy. It makes the Gym Leader look far less imposing than the reinforced leather he wore in the forest, which he needed to safely ride Aeosus.

As Brock gets close enough to mount his platform, Blue can just recognize him with the naked eye. Brock attaches an earpiece and mic to his ear, and Blue takes out the one he was given and does the same. After a moment the earpiece comes to life, and he hears Brock’s voice in it. “Hello again, Mr. Oak. Left toggle is to talk to me, right is to use the stadium speakers. Test your mic by responding to me, then announce your challenge after I address you, and then we’ll begin.”

Blue feels along the edge of his earpiece and toggles it to the left. “Okay, ready.”

Brock’s voice booms around the stadium. “Citizens of Pewter, gym members, guests from afar, welcome. Today another has come to test his mettle in our forge. Though still in his first week as a trainer, he has shown the will and skill to attempt a place among us as equals. Blue Oak, Pewter Gym honors your request. State the nature of your Challenge.”

Mastery, Membership, or Leadership. After a trainer fights their way to the top of a Gym, those are the options for formal Challenge. Each is more difficult than the last, and dictates what pokemon and techniques Brock will use.

Blue toggles his mic’s switch to the right. “I challenge Pewter Gym for Mastery.”

“Pewter Gym accepts. Incapacitate or force me to withdraw my pokemon, and you will bear our badge. Prepare for battle!”

The platforms hum to life and detach from the stairs leading up to them. Blue looks to his right and left, where the edge of the arena’s railing goes through the bottom of his platform to help it move. He doesn’t expect the match to require much movement, but he widens his step and braces his legs just in case.

“Go, geodude!”

Blue sees the flash, and the wide arena, the huge stadium, the crowds, it all falls away as his world narrows down to the pokemon on the other side of the arena.

He doesn’t even feel insulted at Brock’s choice of a lowly geodude after he already defeated Jarod’s graveler. A pokemon in one trainer’s hands can for all intents and purposes be a completely different one in another’s.

Unfortunately his plans are now derailed. He thought up strategies to use for a number of pokemon Brock might open with, even checking the history of earlier Challenges to get an idea for what might come, but Leaders are notorious for rarely repeating strategies.

Best to play it safe and assume this one won’t be as easy to beat as the last.

“Go, Gon!”

Blue’s freshly named shroomish appears on the field, and he catches the pokeball as it jumps back up toward him. As this would be his first public match, he took the time to rename the rest of his pokemon beforehand. The mushroom waddles about, too far from the geodude to spot the threat. “Gon, battle!” His pokemon goes still, then faces outward from Blue. If Brock favors decisive actions at the opportune moment, rushing into the battle would be the worst thing Blue could do. Or would it be the best one?

“We begin the match at a distance, as often occurs in the wild.” Brock’s voice holds everyone’s attention even as their eyes are locked on the pokemon, waiting for the first move. “The challenger makes an intelligent choice of pokemon for type advantage, but more important is his wisdom to remain cautious.”

Brock puts one hand out, metal claws covering the tips of his fingers. As the stadium holds its breath, Brock taps a pattern on the metal railing in front of him, another microphone stationed close to ensure the sound is spread.

His pokemon immediately begins to pick at itself, fingers chipping off bits of rocky hide. It grabs a rock from the ground and grinds the pieces against it, then tosses the rock toward Gon before repeating the process with a new one. The stones don’t travel far before arcing down, but they never touch the ground, instead hovering above it and gently floating outward at slightly different heights and speeds.

“Stealth Rock, an environmental hazard that will punish indecisiveness by bombarding new targets with stones. With his Grass pokemon’s status effects, the Challenger could outlast us easily by alternating pokemon. We must make it harder for him to win a waiting game.”

As Brock narrates to the audience, about half of whom are taking notes, Blue racks his brain for what potential traps besides the apparent and obvious one he might walk into if he tries to go on the offensive. He can keep a respectable distance while using leech seeds or powders, but geodude’s rock throws outrange them.

Blue’s fingers twitch. He’s already been outplayed. He just thought to use shroomish’s stun spore and risk sending Zephyr out for a quick gust to send it toward the geodude, but the floating rocks would knock him out of the sky the moment he got close. Was that intentional? Did Brock confer with his subordinates before the match?

Doesn’t matter. Focus on victory and find the path to it.

There are almost a dozen rocks out now, each spinning lazily above the ground in a half circle between their pokemon and in different directions from other. Gon can take a hit from them much better than Zephyr could. As long as he can get a leech seed onto the geodude the stealth rocks won’t matter as much, but even that might take too long. In which case his best bet is to end it quickly…

“Gon, Absorb!”

His pokemon waddles toward the floating stones. As soon as he gets close to one, it begins to gravitate toward him, faster and faster until it smacks into the shroomish and knocks him to the side.

The other nearby stealth rocks, which had begun to float toward Gon, immediately slow and begin floating in other directions, repelled by the one near him. Blue watches his pokemon get to his feet, injured but still okay, and lets out a breath. The rocks don’t move quick enough and aren’t big enough to do much damage to pokemon that aren’t weak to rocks in the first place. Gon begins to run forward again, now inside the stealth rock field.

Brock taps another command onto the railing, and his geodude moves quickly as Gon closes the distance between them, pulling up and tossing a stone as big as its fist. It hits Gon square in the face, and Blue’s pokemon tumbles backward.

As he feared, this geodude is much better trained than the one he fought before. If he gets close enough for Absorb, it might knock his pokemon out with a tackle before his pokemon can restore itself.

“Gon, Leech Seed!”

“Geodude, Dig!”

Murmurs ripple throughout the stadium as Brock’s pokemon begins rapidly tunneling under the ground. Blue watches the seeds arc through the air with his heart in his throat, but they land too late on the upturned soil where the geodude disappeared.

“Our biggest weakness as Rock trainers is our speed.” Brock’s voice fills the stadium again, immediately silencing the crowd. “Our pokemon rely on their tough hides to protect them, but when they face their weaknesses they cannot afford to take every hit. Whether by training or TM, ensure your pokemon have an escape tool for emergencies.”

Blue feels his lips threatening to stretch into a smile, and wipes the sweat from his neck again. He’s losing, and badly, but all he feels is exhilarated. This is the kind of challenge he was looking for. And he can still see a path.

“Gon, ready!” His pokemon goes still as it prepares for his next command.

“What will you do now, Blue? It doesn’t look as though your pokemon can take much more. Will you try someone else?”

Blue’s head snaps up as he’s addressed directly. Leader Brock stands with his arms crossed, patiently waiting for Blue’s next move. Graciously giving him the opportunity to withdraw his pokemon.

Blue switches his mic to the private channel too. “I was considering it, but honestly? I’m thinking maybe my shroomish can take one more hit. Funny thing about that last command, it was verbal. How do you plan on bringing your geodude back up while standing all the way up on the platform?”

Blue can see Brock’s smile on the screens above, and switches his mic back to open broadcast. The audience begins to murmur, no doubt wondering what he and the Gym Leader said. The more experienced among them have probably realized already and are explaining to their neighbors: once underground, Brock can’t send any more commands to his pokemon from on his platform. Geodude will default to the behavior of a wild pokemon, and only be able to detect Blue’s shroomish if he moves.

Which means all Blue has to do is wait. If Gon were older he would be able to use Growth, temporarily boosting the effects of his attacks, but if Blue is quick enough they won’t need it.

Time ticks by, and the crowd grows restless as they watch the motionless shroomish and trainers. The floating stones continue to rotate lazily midair, but some of them have begun to lower. Blue tracks the one closest to the ground, pulse speeding up as he feels the decisive point of the match approaching. Almost… almost…

It touches down, and a few seconds later geodude’s fist bursts out of the ground beneath it with a CRACK that sends it flying.

“Shroomish, Stun Spore!” Blue yells as the geodude pulls itself above the surface, and whatever Brock taps out against the railing is too late: the spores fall over the geodude, and its movements slow to a jerky halt.

“Gon, Absorb!”

“Geodude, return!”

Applause fill the stadium as Brock’s pokemon is recalled in a beam of light. Blue quickly smooths his face of any irritation, and smiles as the cameras shift to him. League rules are clear that trainers should withdraw their pokemon in a competitive battle the moment they believe theirs has lost, as well as refrain from attacking when it’s clear they’ve won. Still, he would have liked to get the Absorb off to heal Gon up before the geodude was withdrawn.

“Well done, challenger! You have once again demonstrated the trait our gym most prizes.”

“Thank you, Leader. I learned the value of decisive action while fighting the Viridian Forest fire, and from our meeting there I knew I had more to learn. Your members proved apt teachers throughout the day.”

Blue can hear the murmur of the crowd’s distant conversations again, and his smile widens briefly. He hoped before the match for a natural circumstance to speak to the crowd, and Brock gave him the perfect opening. In the space of seconds he established that he was in Viridian helping fight the fire and that he met Brock there. He would let the listeners fill in the details themselves: if the scene they envision is Blue Oak and their Gym Leader fighting side by side against the blaze, all the better. And a final, casual mention that this was his first day stepping into the gym, for those that don’t already know it.

As for the idea that Blue was exhibiting “decisiveness,” he’s starting to have his doubts. It really feels more like patience to him. He could ask Brock the difference after he wins, but that would probably ruin the moment, not to mention make him look like an idiot.

Brock unclips another ball from his belt. A heavyball. “Then let’s put your understanding to the final test. Defeat this pokemon, and Pewter’s badge will be yours. Go, Onix!”

Blue nearly has a heart attack in the time between the crowd’s shout of excitement and his mind to catch up with what he heard: “onix,” not Aeosus. Of course. That would be ridiculous. And yet some part of him is absurdly disappointed.

The onix is an adolescent, only about six meters long. Its rocky skin is a light grey, and its horn hasn’t finished forming. None of which really matters. Brock is widely acknowledged to be the greatest onix trainer in the world. This onix doesn’t have to be Aeosus to be a threat.

Thankfully it’s one of the pokemon he was prepared for, as unlikely as it seemed. As the onix looks around at its surroundings and goes still upon seeing Blue’s shroomish, Brock opens his mouth to say something else to the audience, but Blue cuts him off. “Gon, Leech Seed!”

His bruised and battered shroomish responds immediately, and the seeds arc up and land in various spots along the onix’s segmented body. “Gon, S-!”

“Onix, Ta-

“-tun S-”

“-ckle!”

“-pore!”

Blue and Brock’s commands blend together uselessly, but the Gym Leader immediately follows his with taps from his fingers, and his onix dives forward. The tip of its snout hits Gon and sends the shroomish flying backward.

Blue already has his pokeball in hand and aimed out, tracking his pokemon through the air in a state of icy detachment. “Gon, return!” The beam flashes out and intercepts his shroomish, sucking it back into the ball.

The stadium is still and quiet for a moment, and then applause echo from every corner. Blue lowers his pokeball and stares at it a moment, then takes out his pokedex and aligns the lenses.

Something eases in his chest when it confirms that his shroomish is still alive, and he puts his dex away with a sigh. That was close. He got greedy, trying to grab an advantage even with an injured pokemon.

“Is your pokemon alright?” asks Brock in his ear.

“Yeah,” he says back. “That was irresponsible of me.”

“I train my Challenger pokemon to pull their punches, but your shroomish could easily have been crushed.”

Blue feels a flush rise in his neck. He already admitted his mistake. “I’ll be more careful.”

“I was apologizing: each of us reacted instinctually. Let’s both try to do better.” Brock switches back to public broadcasting just as the crowd is beginning to quiet down. “An excellent save by the challenger! Never forget to train yourself as well as your pokemon: both your lives will often depend on your reflexes and coordination.”

Blue tunes out Brock’s words and focuses on his options during the brief respite. The leech seeds are planted, which means he just needs to buy time. He can send Zephyr out, but a single hit by a rock would knock it down, and if this onix is anywhere near as accurate as the geodude was, that won’t take long. Blue already got lucky once: to gamble on Zephyr surviving a Rock Throw would be beyond reckless.

Which means he has one choice left. “Go, Maturin!”

His squirtle appears on the battlefield. It doesn’t take long for her to spot the massive onix facing her and drop onto all fours, head thrust belligerently outward. “Maturin, Bubble!”

His squirtle dashes forward to get in range while Brock taps out his own command. Brock’s onix uncoils itself and lunges at a diagonal, and Maturin shifts her rear feet to turn with the massive rocksnake as it weaves in and out of the rocks on the battlefield.

Maturin sends out a series of bubbles just as the onix swerves again. The bubbles hit the onix’s side and pop explosively, their water raising a cracked, white welt at each spot along its rocky hide. The onix flinches and slows in its rush, and rears back.

A roar of pain reveals a maw massive enough to fit Maturin between its rock jaws, and Maturin recoils, ending its attack. Before Blue can give another command, the onix puts on a burst of speed, lunging around to the left of Blue’s squirtle before cutting sharply to the right.

“Maturin, Withdraw!” Blue yells as his pokemon is lost to view. On the monitors above he sees his pokemon from an overhead angle as she tucks herself into her shell just before the onix wraps itself around her and constricts.

The arena is so quiet Blue can hear his heartbeats under the low grinding of the onix’s tightening coils. “Another strong play,” Brock says over the speakers. “The challenger’s chosen a pokemon with both a type advantage and a strong defense. In combination with the leech seeds, it could potentially whittle down our onix. The question, then, is simple: how long can it hold out?”

Blue watches the leech seeds stuck to the onix’s skin stretch their roots out bit by bit, green tendrils slowly spreading over the light grey stone. Too slowly. A squirtle’s shell can withstand hundreds of pounds of pressure, but even an adolescent onix can exert more than that. Blue almost pulls out his pokedex to check the exact numbers, but he knows it wouldn’t matter. The leech seeds won’t bring the onix down quick enough. He needs more time.

Blue’s hand twitches toward his belt, then stops. The onix’s body is blocking his line of sight: the pokeball’s beam wouldn’t be able to reach his squirtle. Even if he could return Maturin, Zephyr won’t last long anyway.

Did he lose, just like that? No, there has to be a way…

“Do you yield, trainer?” Brock’s voice holds no reproach, but Blue imagines the judgement of those watching. How long is he willing to let his pokemon suffer? How much is he willing to risk its life, just to win?

But he has to win. There’s got to be something, some way out…

The worst part is that he can’t even give her new commands: all of her attacks require at least poking her head out of her shell, and she was standing horizontally on all fours when she withdrew. He can see on the monitor that her limb and head openings are right up against the onix. The first thing he has to do is fix that. “Maturin, Rapid Spin!”

For a moment Blue wonders if she heard him through all that stone, but then her shell begins to turn. After a moment he sees her stubby legs and arms clawing and scrambling at the onix’s stone hide, gripping the rough sides of each boulder to turn and twist around and around until she’s sticking up vertically. “Maturin, Water Gun!” Blue shouts as Brock taps out another command.

The onix bobs its head to the side as she sticks her head out and spurts water at its face. Blotches of white spread along its skin where some of the water falls, and it responds by roaring again and squeezing tighter. Maturin is forced to withdraw completely to avoid her extremities getting crushed, and the onix seems more angry than hurt. None of the water hit where the leech seeds are.

The grinding of the onix’s boulders rubbing against each other seems to fill the arena, and Blue can see his pokemon’s shell getting squeezed tighter and tighter. As his options fall away one by one, he feels his battle calm crack and fall apart. He tries desperately to call it back, to sink deeper into the objective clarity it provides, but every second that passes makes him feel more and more like he’s back in Viridian, with the shiftry dispatching his pokemon and rushing at him through the mist… his mind fills with that panicked desire to slow time down, stop it for just a moment-

“Trainer. Do you yield?”

This last said privately in his earpiece. Brock is being gracious in victory, and all it does is awaken Blue’s anger. He wants to yell out for Maturin to water gun again, hope that his pokemon can miraculously pull it off and force the onix to release her…

No. That was the first thing, the very first rule he recognized about what separates the good trainers he watched from the bad ones. Good trainers don’t just give commands and hope for the best. Both might seem like they ask the impossible of their pokemon, but the winners are the ones that always have a plan, some path to victory.

And somewhere in this fight, Blue lost his.

“I yield.”


Blue closes the call with Red after telling him about the match and agreeing to meet him and Leaf at the nearby Trainer House soon. He’s sitting on a couch in what looks like a staff common room, which he has all to himself as he waits for Brock to show up from wherever he is. The TV is on some local news channel with the sound off, and Blue stares past it unseeing.

The last thirty minutes were a bit of a blur. After Blue was defeated and their pokemon recalled, he stood on his platform and listened to the spectators’ applause and the Gym Leader’s final lessons from the match. Then Brock told him privately to follow the attendant back at the entrance, who led him to this room and told him to make himself comfortable. There’s a table laden with snacks and beverages, but they hold no appeal for Blue. All he wanted to do since withdrawing Maturin was leave, but he smiled and nodded as if he didn’t feel hollow inside.

Giovanni. Lance. Cynthia. His idols, the youngest trainers to become regional Champions in history, were all undefeated in their gym battles. It was part of their legend, that they were pokemon masters even from a young age.

A legend that Blue won’t share. And he has no one to blame but himself. How could he ever have thought he had patience? From the moment they got their pokemon, he was so focused on getting on the road and staying on the move, all so they could reach Pewter and he could get a badge within his first week as a trainer, something not even Giovanni accomplished.

His mistakes are so obvious now. Did he really try to take on a Gym Leader with just three pokemon? Sure he had the type advantage for two of them, but so what? He knew that wouldn’t be enough, any scrub can catch the right pokemon for a gym, but most fail in their challenges. He’s a pokemon trainer, not a pokemon catcher. And just packing some training in as he travels isn’t enough.

He wonders why this is all so obvious to him now, when it does him no good. Would Red or Leaf have told him as much if he asked them? Would he have listened? The thought makes him want to find a bed and pull the covers over his head for about a week.

There’s still a small part of him that insists that he just got unlucky, that he should have sent Zephyr out and tried to stall for the leech seeds, but instead he forces himself to go over his mistakes again and again until the persistent voice of stubbornness finally grows tired of it and slinks off elsewhere.

Blue’s exhausted in general, really. He’s barely gotten any rest since they set out, and was up early to start at the gym when it opened. Just as he considers lying down on the couch and catching some shuteye, there’s a knock on the door, and then it opens. Leader Brock comes in looking annoyingly stoic as ever, and Blue gets to his feet with a mostly contained sigh.

“Please, stay seated. I know you’ve had a long day. How are you holding up?”

Blue frowns as Brock sits on the couch across from him. He was expecting a lecture about safe battle standards or basic training responsibilities, not a pity party. “I’m fine. Just a bit tired.”

“I’ll bet. You arrived when, eight in the morning? Nine?”

“Closer to eight.”

“Quite a day. They’re still talking about it, you know.”

“About what?” Blue asks warily.

“The way you ‘took the gym by storm.’ Went right through the ranks without stopping, even beating Jarod and Sharzad! I was impressed with you after Viridian, and after battling you firsthand I can see how driven you are. I bet a lot of people will come to train with you, if you stick around for another challenge.”

Blue’s spirits were rising slightly as Brock spoke, but now they plummet back to the pit of his stomach. Right. As a general standard, Gym Leaders only accept challenges from the same trainer once a month. He would have to live with this failure for weeks before he can try wipe it away with a victory, and despite his new wisdom about the need to take things slower, the thought of spending a whole month in Pewter training is almost intolerable. “I… would love to. But I’m pretty sure my traveling companions would want to move on before then.”

Brock nods. “Well, however long you’re here, feel free to sign up for our classes or trainings. You earned the admissions already.”

Blue sits up a bit. “If I do well in the trainings, is it possible we could rematch sooner than…” he trails off as Brock’s smile fades.

“No, I’m sorry,” the Gym Leader says in a voice that brooks no argument. “I know some Leaders will bend that rule once in awhile, but I never have. You fought well, but you’re not ready yet. Surely you see that?”

If admitting it to himself was hard, Blue finds admitting it to another impossible. He simply grunts and changes the topic. “So what did you call me back here for?”

“I just told you.”

Blue blinks. “What, that?”

Brock grins wide as he leans back against the couch. “What, were you expecting a browbeating? I like to talk to challengers after the match, whether they win or lose. Especially the latter. I know it can be disheartening.”

Despite himself, Blue finds himself liking Brock. He’s been nothing but courteous even when he didn’t have to be, and the Leader’s charisma is as strong as he always heard. Now that the initial bout of moping is out of his system, he remembers that he’s having a private, personal conversation with Gym Leader. Letting such an opportunity go to waste would be like throwing in the towel on his dreams and goals altogether.

“Well I have to admit you’ve cheered me up considerably. If you don’t mind my asking, could you explain your Gym’s virtue to me a bit more? I thought I understood it, but clearly still have much to learn.” The irony of having said practically the same thing earlier for the crowds when he was sure of his impending victory doesn’t escape him.

Brock’s face lights up, and Blue recognizes the expression of an ideologue with his favorite conversation topic. Red gets like that with science all the time. “Of course! But you sell yourself short, Blue, from what I saw you understand it quite well: the commitment to act once you’ve found a path to victory.”

Blue can sort of see how that relates to the Gym Leader’s fighting style, but it seems more like a vague platitude than a specific virtue. It is, after all, something he thinks of often, and has seen mentioned elsewhere. What makes Brock’s philosophy so different in practice?

A concrete example suddenly occurs to him. “So that’s the virtue you based your signature move on?”

“Exactly. Most people think Bide is about patience, but decisiveness is the true value. Complete commitment to a principle or action, with everything you’ve got. Often that takes patience, to wait for the perfect moment, but when you see it you go after it, full force and damn the consequences. That last part can be risky, of course. That’s why I’ve stopped teaching it by default to even those that earn a badge. Much easier to just hand them a copy of the Rock Tomb TM.”

Blue’s brow furrows. “I think your technique would be perfect for my fighting style and pokemon. What would I need to do for you to teach it to me?”

Brock gets to his feet, and Blue follows, wondering if he said something wrong. “First off, complete the rest of our trainings. After that, we can talk about it, and the virtue of decisiveness, again. Deal?”

Blue looks at the Leader’s outstretched hand. After a moment he takes it with a smile. The single most important thing about completing one’s ambitions is to not let setbacks stop your commitment. To turn defeats into victories, if possible. He may not have gotten the perfect Gym record he wanted, but maybe he can earn something more valuable instead.

“Deal.”

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